266 HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION them instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, music and painting, and have them made capable in household affairs. It was not a very enlightened programme of studies, but it was greatly in advance of contemporary practice, and had in it the promise of something better. In its way it corresponded with the new. idea of preparing people for their station in life, which was the most fruitful principle in courtly education; and it initiated a movement for more adequate feminine education among the French upper classes. More important than Fenelon's views on the education of girls is the general view of educational beginnings which underlies his whole discussion. The idea from which he starts is the necessity for commencing education in the very earliest years. Children, he points out, can begin their education even before they can talk properly. Their brains are soft and take on im- pressions with great readiness. In learning to speak they are not merely committing a large number of words to memory, but are getting some idea of their sense. The behaviour of people around them, again, has a powerful effect on them, for good or evil. Consequently these early years must not be neglected by the educator. At first, it is true, his work will be chiefly negative. He " must be content to follow and help nature." The body needs more attention than the mind. Care must be taken to avoid injury to health by forcing instruction on them or by stirring up the passions. On the mental side the main thing is to prevent them forming a wrong estimate of their own powers. They must be made to realize that the help given by adults is given because of their helplessness, and they must not be allowed to grow vain and presumptuous by an inconsiderate admiration of their feeble powers. If they ask questions, for example, plain and precise answers should be made, and new questions should be suggested to show them how little they know; and as their reason progresses, they should be kept humble by being reminded of their previous ignorance. Though F6nelon is mainly concerned about the exclusion of evil influences in childhood, he recognizes the possibility of making an early beginning with education of a kind. But he would avoid the mistakes of the ordinary school, where, for example, children are forced to learn Latin against their will. So far as possible, he enjoins, instruction should be indirect.